Jefferson County, NY Pioneers

John McCombs, Pioneer


Dale Samuelson
P. O. Box 579
Guilderland, NY 12084 NOTE: NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS
30 August 2001


This story is based on proven facts, a bit or supposition, a bit of hope, and maybe circumstantial evidence enough to make it essentially true.

We believe John A. McCombs was born to Joseph and Elizabeth (Batts) McCombs in Salem, Essex Co., Massachusetts, a few years before 1790. Joseph and Elizabeth were married on 15 December 1782 and if John was the first born of the four children shown in the 1790 US census, he could have been born as early as 1783, or a couple of years later. A Salem North Church report appears to show his birth in 1785.

Unfortunately, by 1790 Joseph had died and the head of household became Elizabeth “McCoombs”, widow, the only McCombs listed in the 1790 US Census for MA. She is shown with one male member under 16 (John at 5) and three females.

Interestingly, there are no McCombs (McCoombs, etc) shown in the 1800 US Census for Massachusetts that we have been able to locate.

There are two good reasons why we believe this is the correct John A. McCombs:

1. Three of his known children in their 1880 US Census reports (a daughter in Knox Co. IL (Rhoda Ann) and the others, a son in Marshall Co. KS (Albert), and a second son in Milton, IA, (John)) all said their father was born in MA and

2. John A. McCombs is the only young male McCombs in the 1790 census reported in MA. There remains the possibility that John A. McCombs’ wife and her mother were members of the Badger family because in 1850, one of the McCombs descendants (Albert McCombs and family in Knox Co., IL) had an 83 year old man, Edmund Badger, living with them who could be the father of John A. McCombs’ wife. There were Badgers living in Salem, MA area in the 1790/1810 period, and there were Badgers living in Morgan Co., IL, before 1850.

A major problem confronting this information is that the daughter, Rhoda Ann, and sons Albert and John, mentioned above, relative to the reports for the 1800 US Census, indicated their mother had been born in New York State. There is no statement, of course, as to where in NY she was born, but considerable weight must be given to the fact that these siblings were physically apart when they separately provided the information that their father was born in MA and their mother in NY. A second daughter, Mary Jane, in the 1880 US Census, did not answer the question on parents’ birthplaces, as though she did not recall.

We are left with the mystery of how in that time period John A. McCombs and his wife could have gotten together. Where were they married? We assume it was in NY since this is where she was born and where they lived for so many years. John A. McCombs was living in Champion, NY Jefferson County before 1820, by the fact he is in that town’s 1820 US Census. How and exactly when he moved with his family to Champion, NY before 1820 is not known yet. He is shown as John A. McCombs, and/or John A. McCoombs, in the church membership records of the Baptist Church of Champion during sometime in the period 1819 – 1824. In the 1820 census for Champion Township, John A. McCombs, then about 35, and his wife, are shown as having two boys under 10, (Albert, 6, and young John, 5) and at least one boy over 16. He has two unknown girls under 10 and one between 10 and 16. Also in the household is another man between 26 and 45. Three members of the nine are engaged in agriculture.

By the time of the 1825 NY State census, there were 5 males in the family including John A., and 5 females including John’s wife, and Rhoda Ann and Mary Jane. There appears to have been at least 6 or 7 siblings plus a couple others. Maybe one or more children of John A. and his wife had left home. It is evident that in addition to Mary Jane (1821), Rhoda Ann (1822), young John (1815) and Albert James (1816), there are brothers and/or sisters of whom we have no specific knowledge, yet their descendants exist and maybe someday will show up.

My great-grandmother, Rhoda Ann, was born in Champion on 25 March 1822, according to our family history. We have added “young” John McCombs to the list of John A. McCombs’ children because in 1850 “young” John was 35 years old and living and working right in the Philadelphia township area where the rest of his family had been living. His birth in 1815 would fit him right in with the young boys in the family, in addition to the fact his father was born in MA and his mother in NY. In 1840 John A. McCombs is shown in the US Census as living with or next door to his daughter, Rhoda Ann, and her new husband, John Kenney, and then, at this point, John A. McCombs disappeared! Whether he died at this point (he would have been only 55), or went west with an unknown member of his brood, we have been unable to determine.

John McCombs (the younger) probably married his wife Dorothy about 1839. This is based on their oldest child, Nelson, being 10 in the US 1850 Philadelphia, Jefferson Co census. In addition they had 3 other children, Samuel O., 8; Martin A., 5; Emily, 3. Both John Kenney and Albert McCombs are known to have worked in the Sterling iron ore mines in Philadelphia township with the Kenney family having their home in Sterlingville, now part of Fort Drum. John hauled ore from mine to the smelter in Sterlingville, a distance of about four miles.

Mary Jane (McCombs) and Rueben Mosher then moved to Knox Co. Illinois, in 1845. We have found no specific background information on what led to this move, but others in either/or the McCombs or Mosher families probably had them moving West. Albert and Phoebe McCombs left for Illinois in 1848 where they are recorded in the US 1850 Census for Knox Co. Edmund Badger, 83, is recorded living in the home.

Rhoda Ann and John Kenney sold their Sterlingville property in 1855 and followed Albert and Phoebe, and Rueben and Mary Jane, to Knox Co.

There is a family story about the birth of Rhoda Ann’s first child born in Illinois, after seven children born in Jefferson Co. New York. It was recorded by Margaret Evans who wrote the genealogy of the Kenney family. Margaret reported her father, Elisha Mortimer Kenney, telling the story of his own birth just after Rhoda Ann and John Kenney arrived by wagon in Knox Co. in the dead of winter. He was born to Rhoda Ann on 26 December 1855 with the temperature near 40 degrees below zero. He said his Aunt Jane (Mary Jane) had to hold him over the cookstove wrapped in a blanket to keep him warm!

Young John McCombs remained with his family working in the Philadelphia area at the time of the US 1850 census, and in 1860 moved to the Alexandria Township in the western section of Jefferson Co., all yet together except that Samuel was living and doing farm labor for another family. Nelson C. had also left home, and a new child, Ann H., 8 years old, had been added to the family.

John Kenney became a successful farmer and he and Rhoda Ann remained in Knox Co the rest of their lives. John died 6 January 1900 in Oneida, Knox Co; Rhoda Ann passed away 28 October 1903. A large headstone marks their graves in Oneida Cemetery. The Kenney’s had 13 children, seven born in NY and six in Illinois. All 13 lived to maturity. One died in the Civil War. There were 55 children in the third generation. The last member of the 2nd generation, John Fowler Kenney II, died at Mineola, Iowa, 14 May 1945.

In 1856 Albert and Phoebe moved to Iowa where they lived in Muscatine Co. They lived in Iowa for 23 years. They are shown in the 1870 US Census in Cedar Co. Iowa. (The call # is M593 Roll 380). Albert is 56, Phoebe 53, and six children (John, Jane, Caleb, Emma, Francis, and Julia) are still living at home.

By 1879, the family had moved to Kansas except for possibly some of the mature children. Caleb, 17, in the 1870 US Census is shown working as a laborer for William Borland, who was born in Ireland. There is no indication in the Census for Lake Township, Muscatine Co. as to Mr. Borland’s business and he is not identified as a farmer. We also find it interesting that Albert and Phoebe left Knox Co. soon after John and Rhoda Ann arrived, after having lived there for eight years. That should be an interesting story itself.

Once in Kansas, Albert and Phoebe settled in Centralia, Nemaha Co. They had 10 children, five sons and five daughters, eight of whom survived their mother who died 9 February 1905. Albert had died 19 October 1892. Mary Jane and Rueben Mosher lived in Knox Co. until about 1859 when they apparently moved directly to Nemaha Co. Kansas. They had nine children, five girls and four boys. In the Kansas State Census of 1885, Mary Jane is described as a widow, 63 years old. Rueben had died between the 1880 US Census, where he is shown as 72 years old, and 1885.

As a result of obtaining the complete 1880 US Census on CDs from the Latter Day Saints Church, we were able to locate John and Dorothy McCombs very quickly in Iowa. Along with them came a surprise! After carefully studying the CD and the Images, the spelling seems to be Mc Cooms, (sic) much as it was back in MA. Of course the enumerator was the transcriber, so we can’t know what he heard. (My father who was probably born in Rhoda Ann McCombs Kenney’s home in Knox Co in 1883, always pronounced McCombs as if it had two long o’s).

Both John, 65, & Dorothy, 68, are shown t the proper age for 1880, and John’s father is indicated as having been born in MA while his mother is shown born in NY, just as indicated by his siblings Albert and Rhoda Ann in their 1880 census reports. Dorothy reported again that she had been born in Canada and both her parents were born in NY. John & Dorothy were living at Dwelling 71 in the Milton, Van Buren Co. IA US Census for 1880.

In Dwelling 72 next door to John & Dorothy are Charles, 34, & Ann Bartlett, 30, with their two young boys. Ann, by age, and the indication that she was born in NY, and that her father was born in NY, while her mother was born in Canada, makes it pretty evident she is the daughter of John & Dorothy.

And next door beyond, at Dwelling 73, is the family of Frank, 41 & Mary Badgley, 35, with their daughter Minnie. Frank was born in Michigan, but both of his parents were born in NY. Mary was born in NY but her father was born in MA, while her mother was born in NY. I note a few unique aspects of this family that suggests they should be included in the family, with little evidence. The name Badgley is very similar to badger but that maybe stretching things too far. This needs checking. John and Dorothy’s son, Samuel McCombs, was found in the 1880 US Census for Milan, Sullivan Co., Missouri (See Microfilm T9-738, Sullivan Co., Polk Township, p. 14, line 36). He was married to a Mary, 32, born in IA and they had 2 children, Anna, 4 and John, 1, as usual a first son named for his paternal grandfather. Samuel, a laborer, is shown as 39, born in NY, with father born in NY, and, most importantly, mother born in Canada!

Then to make the identification even more positive, I found on the next page, p. 15, of the same census, his older brother, now shown as Charles N. rather than Nelson C. He is married to Charlotta, 32, born in Canada, didn’t know birthplace of her mother but father born in NY. They have one child, Charles N., 9. The facts for Charles N. Sr. show the proper age and again that he was born in NY, his father was born in NY, and his mother was born in Canada!

A check of the map shows that Sullivan Co., Missouri, is just across the southern border of Iowa, near van Buren Co., Iowa, so Samuel & Mary probably did not move far from her home in IA. No information so far on how Charlotta from Canada met Charles N. McCombs, who in growing up somehow had reversed his given names.

Now all we have to prove is that John A. McCombs went to Nevada Co (CA?) and at what age?! Any help and information provided will be greatly appreciated.

Note: This McComb’s research story was typed by hand in January 2017 by Thomas F. LaClair from printed pages provided by Nancy “Nan” Dixon. Nan is the coordinator of the Jefferson County New York GenWeb and, along with this and many other articles, are being now typed and added to GenWeb.

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